homes: Not tin cans on wheels |
Your best deal
on a new home may roll off a factory assembly line.
the cost of homeownership spiraling out of the reach of many working Americans,
experts say manufactured homes, which cost up to 35 percent less per square foot
to build, may be the haven of the future.
The savings for buyers come from economies of scale,
not scrimping on quality, says Bruce Savage, vice president of Manufactured Housing
Institute, a nonprofit trade association.
that build houses in quantity buy components, from refrigerators to plumbing and
building supplies, in bulk," he says. "Also, in factory construction
you have better quality control and much less theft than on building sites and
no weather delays. All of these economies can be passed on to the consumer."
According to the Institute, one in 10 new single-family housing
starts in 2004 was a manufactured home.
Why aren't more home buyers opting for factory-built over
Depending on where you live, financing can be a problem.
Where good deals are available, they're not always easy to find. And they require
a good credit rating.
But image is the biggest hurdle, industry
representatives say. Say "manufactured housing," they lament, and people
start thinking tin cans on wheels -- flimsy, ugly and destined to fall apart long
before the mortgage is paid.
It ain't necessarily so. Today's factory-built
models are much more likely to be destined for a permanent home on a concrete
"This is not your grandmother's mobile home,"
says Leroy West, president of Superior Real Estate, a Southern California company
that puts up factory-built models on empty lots, in existing single-family-home
developments and is planning a community of 68 homes north of Los Angeles with
"The standards that are in place today
are equal in most ways to any site-built home -- the same installation, the same
structure," he says.
Built to last
All manufactured homes must comply with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development, or HUD, building code, unlike their site-built counterparts, which
are subject to local codes.
The primary difference between the
HUD code and the Universal Housing Code, on which local codes are based, says
West, is that HUD requires a steel transport frame under the wooden floor joists.
"If anything," he says, "that makes it stronger."
much research into the issue, the Ford Foundation has come to the same conclusion.
Ford is sinking millions of dollars into raising the image and financing options
of homes built in a factory.
"There's no reason to believe
that being in manufactured housing puts a homeowner in more danger than in any
kind of site-built housing," says program officer George McCarthy, "with
the proviso that it is sited according to existing code.
high-wind areas where there are tornados, manufactured housing is perceived to
be worse to live in. That's because if it's built on a slab, there's no basement
to escape to underground. But that's a feature of many site-built homes in the
same area, so it's not the method of construction that's the problem.